April 19, 2015

Lessons from an Adjunct: Luck and Desperation Led to My First Online Teaching Job

I was lucky and they were desperate.

After completing my PhD I thought online teaching would be a great route for me.  As a mother of two little ones and a Navy wife I wanted something flexible that I could take with me when we transfer.  There are a lot of online anatomy and physiology classes.  There are nursing classes online.  I am not qualified to teach these though.  I did not find a lot of online biology positions for someone with a degree in evolutionary biology.  Occasionally there was a posting for an introductory biology instructor.  I always jumped at those.  Everyone else did too, right?  I rarely received anything more than a confirmation email telling me the school had received my application and someone would contact me if my qualifications met their needs.

My resume seemed decent.  I had been a teaching assistant in graduate school for eight undergraduate biology classes.  I did have a gap on my resume though due to a transfer shortly followed by the birth of my son.  I spent a year on and off applying for these positions.  The gap was getting bigger.  I revised my CV and cover letter.  I did not have online teaching experience though.  That seemed to be a critical item for online teaching.

I started taking classes through the University of Wisconsin, Stout to complete a graduate certificate in E-learning and Online Teaching.  Now I could put something about online teaching on my resume.  I still continued to apply to the jobs I could find.

LUCK: My first job came from one of these applications.  I was lucky to have found the job and applied when I did.

DESPERATION: I believe the school was desperate to hire someone due to time constraints.  To teach there I needed to have completed an eight week unpaid training course.  The last course for the year was going to start in less than a week when they called me, only a few days after I submitted my application.  There was barely even an interview.  They asked if I would accept their pay.  I said yes.  They asked if I was willing to complete the unpaid training.  I said yes.  Then they sent me the new hire paperwork.

How To Find Urgent Hire Postings
1.  Look everywhere - I use Indeed.com as my primary source for job postings, but other websites have good postings too such as Inside Higher Ed, Higher Ed Jobs, and Vitae.
2.  Look often - If it is an urgent hire situation they will not have a lot of time to find applicants.  If you go two weeks between scanning job postings you may have missed an urgent hire opportunity completely.
3.  Even look at times you think may not be active hiring periods - due to training requirements for faculty, or an unexpected vacancy during the middle of a semester, you might be able to find an urgent hire situation when few others are actively looking.  This will help decrease the number of individuals in the pool of applicants and increase your chance of being hired.

I wish everyone luck with their job search, and hope this helps someone!  If you have other great websites for finding online teaching jobs, or more helpful advice for those looking for an online job, please post them in the comments below.  I'd love to hear what others have found useful in their job searches!